It was dark when my five year old daughter and I set off in the car to Granville Island last night. We were off to see Carousel Theatre’s production of The Wizard of Oz at the Waterfront Theatre, and Beatrice and I were both excited. I had a feeling we were going to be in for a real treat.
Making Theatre Accessible to Children
Carousel Theatre specializes in making theatre arts accessible to children. Each season more than 40,000 young people and their families benefit from Carousel Theatre’s unique children’s theatre programming, which includes Literary Classics, a Teen Shakespeare Program and a year-round theatre school for kids between the ages of 3 and 17. Each play has specific age guidelines, and the shows are tailored to those guidelines. The Wizard of Oz, for example, is for children age 4 and up.
When my daughter Beatrice and I arrived at the theatre and found our seats for last night’s show, we were delighted to see how close we were to the stage. With an intimate theatre space only 16 seats wide and 14 rows long at the Waterfront Theatre, no matter where you’re sitting you will be close enough to see the action and emotion of the actors shine through. As soon as the lights went down and the Wizard of Oz music started, five year old Beatrice was enthralled.
Children’s Theatre isn’t Just for Kids
The Wizard of Oz was written in 1900, and the songs, phrases, characters and themes have become part of our cultural consciousness. Young and old alike love Dorothy, and girls from 5 to 50 turned up to the show wearing their french braided pigtails and ruby slippers. As children’s theatre, Carousel’s shows have been designed with kids in mind, but the adults in the audience appeared to love The Wizard of Oz no less than the children, especially the whimsical munchkin scenes.
Backstage at The Wizard of Oz
When the lights went up after the show and the audience cleared, Bea and I waited to meet the actors and have a peek backstage as part of our Blogger Night invitation. I’d assumed that there were wings and dressing rooms along narrow corridors backstage at the Waterfront Theatre, but it turns out that it’s pretty much what-you-see-is-what-you-get. The backstage space is tiny, and the actors skillfully nest stage props, fly through costume changes and navigate past each other while the show is on.
General Manager Jessie van Rijn did a great job explaining everything to the kids and the actors fielding questions like, “Where does the fake snow come from?” (a hidden box above the stage) and, “How do you change clothes so quickly?” (practice and lots of velcro).
As the night drew to a close and we headed back home, I thought about the way Jessie described Carousel Theatre’s role in the community as a “cultural concierge”. It’s true – by making theatre accessible to young and old alike, Carousel Theatre is helping people learn not only about the dramatic arts and music, but also the themes of family, love and belonging in a show like The Wizard of Oz. When it comes to what to do in Vancouver with your kids this holiday season, this children’s theatre production is definitely worth checking out.
If you want to see The Wizard of Oz before it ends, buy your tickets soon because shows are selling out fast! Contact Carousel Theatre by phone or online to purchase tickets. The show runs until December 31 on Granville Island.